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New Turkey event getting the stuffing it deserves

ESPN staff
October 10, 2012
Tiger Woods is picking up a pay cheque in Turkey this week © Getty Images
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What is this travesty currently taking place out in Turkey?

If there is anything worse than seeing Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar in shorts, it is watching such a crime against modern sensibilities (why, why are Westwood's legs so smooth and feminine?!) in the knowledge that, even if both of them shoot three rounds of 85 and finish dead last in their groups, they will still walk away with $300,000 each for their efforts.

The shorts are the visual manifestation of the awkward position golf's newest tournament - official title: Turkish Airlines World Golf Final - holds within the golfing calendar. It is not sanctioned by either major tour (meaning standard sartorial rules do not apply), yet the sums on offer in prize money have compelled eight of the best players in the world to turn up.

The $5.2 million prize pot is the main reason the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are in Antalya this week (although they probably have already been given a few million others in the form of an appearance fee), but money can't buy effort.

As is becoming increasingly customary at this time of the season, for the top players these latter months are where they look to line their pockets a little. If they can do so without making a real concerted attempt to actually win, well, so much the better.

McIlroy, for example, turned up on Tuesday for the event - not bothering to even take a practice day. A botched tee shot at the 15th saw him, as he admitted afterwards, basically give up on his match against Kuchar, which was straight stroke play.

The Match: Part II

  • Back in 1956, a fourballs match took place at Cypress Point Golf Club near Pebble Beach that would go on to reach legendary status. Two of the best players of all time - Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson - took on two rising stars of the time - Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward - in a contest where pride was on the line.
  • On Tuesday, a successor of sorts to that fabled match took place - as Davis Love III and Nick Watney (a late replacement for Freddie Couples) took on Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler at the scenic course. And it was the former who won - Watney overcoming any resentment he had at being left out of the Ryder Cup team to assist Love as the pair held off their young challengers to clinch a 2&1 triumph.
  • Probably more exciting than events in Turkey, and not even the winners walked away with any money...

"That was the match basically," the Northern Irishman recalled. "I lost a bit of concentration, went a few behind and gave up a bit.

"To go from level to three behind with three to play, then you hit your tee shot left on 16 into the water hazard as well, you resign yourself to losing and getting yourself ready for the next two matches."

Perhaps aware his comments had betrayed too much, he added: "It could be a blessing, that I'm not going to be complacent. I will go out there and give it my best."

It's safe to say Woods' preparation has been little different - and his Tuesday result was ultimately exactly the same. Charl Schwartzel beat him in a tight encounter, primarily after the American ran up a seven at the par-four ninth.

"You don't see Tiger do things like that very often," Schwartzel observed, the subtext somewhat obvious.

The twin defeats were a nightmare for the tournament organisers - who were already fighting a bit of an uphill battle after one of their number got in a scuffle with a member of the press on the first tee as the Woods-Schwartzel match was about to start.

The losses mean it is highly improbable both will reach the semi-finals of the competition on Thursday - indeed, if things go wrong, the much-vaunted showdown between the pair on Wednesday afternoon (after morning matches against the other member of their group they have not yet faced) might be for nothing more than bragging rights - bragging rights that neither player actually particularly cares about.

But such an outcome might be exactly what the organisers deserve for coming up with such a pointless, soulless exhibition event.

You can't blame the players for taking the payday - although you can perhaps credit Luke Donald for reportedly turning down an invite to spend his time in a less mercenary fashion - but you can wonder who had the deep pockets and skewed vision to push forward with the idea in the first place.

Considering the old saying about money and sense, maybe they deserve to have it taken away by already-rich golfers with little interest in playing to the maximum of their ability.

Yes, the tournament shows Turkey can attract top-tier sports stars and host significant events (which, with World Cup and Olympic bids on the horizon, should not be underestimated), but it cannot seem to get those same stars to actually care as well.

And if they don't then why, ultimately, should we?

Especially if we also have to be subjected to Lee Westwood in shorts…

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